There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the Space Force Program. Some people say it was started by the Air Force MOL, while others claim that it’s an entirely new program. So, what’s the truth? We did some digging and found out that…
The Air Force’s Manned Orbital Laboratory or Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program was proposed in 1963 as a way for the United States Air Force (USAF) to conduct human spaceflight missions during the Cold War.
The purpose of the MOL was to develop a space station that could be used for military purposes, such as reconnaissance and surveillance. The MOL would also have been used to test new equipment and conduct experiments in zero gravity. Astronauts on the MOL were to be armed with sidearms in case they had to defend the station from enemy attack.
However, in 1969 the military applications were said to have been scrapped after spending $3 billion dollars (1969 dollars) and transferred to the NASA Skylab and ASTP programs. It was said the program was canceled because the technology of the time was not advanced enough to make it feasible to continue but not before some significant groundwork had been laid for what would eventually become the Space Shuttle and SDI programs.
- NASA Skylab was the first American space station and was launched by the last Saturn V rocket on May 14, 1973. It consisted of a workshop, a solar observatory, and an Apollo Telescope Mount.
- The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was conducted in July 1975 and was the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. The project involved an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docking in orbit and conducting joint scientific experiments.
The technologies developed by the MOL were later used in the Space Shuttle: the reusable spaceplane concept and the orbital maneuvering vehicle (OMV). The spaceplane concept was first proposed by NASA engineer Robert Gilruth in 1961, and MOL’s chief designer, Max Faget, further developed the idea. The OMV was also originally developed for MOL before being adapted for use on the Shuttle.
Satellite destroying technology derived from MOL became operational during the 1980s as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars” program.
- Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a United States Defense program initiated in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. The stated purpose of SDI was to develop technology to intercept incoming enemy missiles and defend the United States from attack. However, the program was also seen as a way to counter the growing nuclear threat from the Soviet Union.
The technologies developed for MOL were supposedly used for peaceful purposes however, it’s clear that the program had military applications from the start. So while the Air Force MOL may not have been responsible for the Space Force Program specifically, it’s safe to say that they played a significant role in its development.
For a program that was considered innocuous and spent billions of dollars, why did it take over 50 years to be declassified?
Do you have any thoughts on this issue? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you for reading, and be sure to check out our other blog posts for more information on subject such as – The Montauk Project: The U.S. Government’s Top-Secret Program Conducting Experiments on Humans
All photos are from the U.S. Air Force and are in the Public Domain.